The trifling incident of my mishap on roller skates which closed the last installment may not be strictly in keeping with the theme of my article, but I have related it for a purpose. I wanted to explain that although confined to bed, I could sit up and carry on my practice and study just the same. Neither did the accident cool my ambition, but I did miss the Carnival and did not head the Grand March.
With the money I was now making by playing cornet I had an opportunity to buy many things necessary to my music, besides paying my board at home, which gave me a feeling of independence. My first savings went towards buying me a new cornet, something which I had wanted for a long time, as the instrument I had been using was a cheap French make that cost only twelve dollars. I had succeeded in getting this poor affair by shoveling the snow from sidewalks during the winter, for my father would never contribute a cent towards helping me in my career as he did not wish to encourage me in any way that might lead to my becoming a musician.
I purchased a "Three Star" Boston cornet of which I was very proud. It was brass, but I kept it shining like gold. There were very few silver-plated cornets in those days, but after a time I took a notion that I wanted mine plated and took it to a jeweler who said that he could plate it. The plating was all right but the burn is her rubbed the bell so hard that it was badly flattened out in some places. As I had always been very careful not to dent or even scratch an instrument, this nearly broke my heart, but I could not get it repaired anywhere in town and I simply had to let it go as it was. I purchased all the cornet methods and exercises published, as well as a considerable quantity of cornet solos. Every week I bought something which I considered might help me to improve myself, and before long my music library contained every cornet solo that I could find published, either in America or Europe.
It always has been strange to me that so many cornet players seem to have such a strong antipathy against spending money for music, or anything which possibly might help them to improve their condition in music and so perhaps eventually bring in more money. Yet they smoke cigars, and never kick over spending at least a dollar a day for little extravagances that really count for nothing. If these same people would spend only a few dollars weekly for cornet methods and studies written by different authors, getting from these various writers their individual ideas as to playing the cornet correctly, and thereby gaining new suggestions to work out for themselves, in a short time their advancement would be noticeable.
In time, every dollar expended in the manner mentioned will bring in from ten to one hundred more. Even in the music profession money makes money, as well as in commercial life. When spent for a good instrument, good instruction, or good music of any sort, a dollar never is thrown away by a person who desires to make a success with the cornet.
My father always advised me to hear good music whenever possible, and to especially study the work of the different soloists, whether vocalists or instrumentalists, and acting on his advice I made it a point to be present every time a good concert company or fine musical organization appeared in town. This, of course, cost me money, as I had to hire a substitute for my evening work, besides paying admission fee into the concert, yet I never allowed to pass any opportunity that I thought might help me in my music education.
It was by taking advantage of these opportunities that I gained instruction which has helped me even more than as if I had placed myself under the guidance of academic tuition, for one can form a better idea as to how standard music should be interpreted by hearing great artists than can be gained from all the printed and verbal explanations in the world. Therefore, I considered my money well spent when listening to the best artists of the time, and simply sat and absorbed all the good in music that was posible. Nowadays, the phonograph and the radio make wonderful educators when the best in music is heard from them.
It seems strange to me now that I leaned so strongly towards singers principally, yet such was the case, I listened carefully to their rendition of songs and arias, hearing and noting the proper interpretation of the words when combined with music. I learned to judge the correct phrasing of the songs I loved the best, whether sentimental or dramatic, and tried to convey the same meaning of the text by my cornet when playing them. This was much more difficult than playing the regular published cornet solos,even though the latter required greater technic; and I also realized that it exacted more thought, concentration and even endurance than did the playing of ordinary brilliant solos.